Defining Fatty Acid Changes Linked to Rumen Development, Weaning and Growth in Holstein-Friesian Heifers

Emma N. Taylor, Jiwan Han, Congying Fan, Manfred Beckmann, Glyn Hewinson, David Rooke, Ad P. Koets*, Luis A.J. Mur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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After birth, as effectively monogastric animals, calves undergo substantial physiological changes to become ruminants by 3 months of age and reach sexual maturity at approximately 15 months of age. Herein, we assess longitudinal metabolomic changes in Holstein-Friesian (HF) heifers from birth until sexual maturity during this developmental process. Sera from 20 healthy, HF heifers were sampled biweekly from 2 weeks of age until 13 months of age and then monthly until 19 months of age. Sera were assessed using flow infusion electrospray high-resolution mass spectrometry (FIE-HRMS) on a Q Exactive hybrid quadrupole-Orbitrap mass spectrometer for high-throughput, sensitive, non-targeted metabolite fingerprinting. Partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) and unsupervised hierarchical clustering analysis (HCA) of the derived metabolomes indicated changes detectable in heifers’ sera over time. Time series analyses identified 30 metabolites that could be related to rumen development and weaning at ~3 months of age. Further time series analysis identified 40 metabolites that could be correlated with growth. These findings highlight the role of acetic acid and 3-phenylpropionate (3-PP) in rumen development and growth, suggest that weaning induces elevated levels of fatty acyls in response to a post-weaning stress-induced innate immune response and demonstrate the utilization of fatty acyls in growth. The identified metabolites offer serum metabolites which could inform the nutrition and healthy development of heifers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number374
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2022


  • metabolomics
  • fatty acids
  • eicosanoids
  • rumen development
  • weaning
  • growth
  • MILK
  • TIME
  • COWS


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